FMMA Member Highlight
The purpose of our member highlights is to shine a spotlight on outstanding individuals who form part of a groundbreaking network as members of the San Antonio Free Market Medical Association. For our December issue, we chose to sit down and chat with Triple Board Certified physician and endocrinology, diabetes, and thyroid specialist, Dr. Arti Thangudu of Complete Medicine.
Dr. Thangudu takes an evidence-based approach to care, focusing on the whole patient, not their disease or symptoms. At her membership-based practice, she offers her patients direct access, frequent coaching, and continuous blood glucose monitoring.
Seeing thousands of patients through her practice and rigorous fellowships, Dr. Thangudu is fully aware of the skyrocketing costs of prescription medications. Her practice is designed to work closely with each patient, ensuring they take only the medications they need. She also advocates for health coaching and focuses on healthy, balanced diets to prevent, treat, and reverse chronic disease, so patients can reduce their medications.
Can you explain the direct care model of operation for your practice and clinic?
With a direct care practice, we're able to do several things that enhance the doctor patient relationship. I don't see as many patients as I used to. It's really hard to have a great relationship with your patients when you're seeing almost 30 individuals a day. In my practice today, I have much fewer patients, they have much longer visits. My initial consultation is 60 minutes, one-on-one, with me and we run like clockwork. With COVID, we've been doing a lot of virtual appointments but my patients always have the option, even before, for virtual visits, phone visits, I call my patients with their labs, I send them their labs in a timely way.
How did you find out about the option to deliver healthcare using this model?
I had heard about concierge medicine for a while there were things I both liked and didn't like about it. Then I heard about Atlas MD, a group out of Wichita that have been doing direct care for a long time. I started learning about it, early in my practice. It just made so much sense to me. The non-transparency in pricing to both doctors and patients is harmful. I would have patients come and see me and they have insurance and their co-pay is $150 or $250. Or their insurance won't cover specialists visits at all...so the access to specialists was limited. I realized, they're paying these large sums of money to see me, with insurance — what if we just let go of the insurance and I could help them in other ways — such as with labs, better service, more treatment options?
Are you operating at capacity?
I do have the chance to take on new patients but I do have to limit myself to only individuals with the specific issues I treat so that I can help them. I am so pro-physician-entrepreneur because it's a dying theme. So many practices are being bought by hospitals. In some ways, that might be beneficial. I do think you have to have vision and drive. If you want to be employed, that's great too because what I do isn't for everybody. But there is a space for this. I didn't think I was going to start my own practice. I just saw so many holes and gaps in the system and, also, holes and gaps in my life. So I didn't feel that there was an employed position that could fill those gaps.
What brought you into the San Antonio Free Market Medical Association?
Through my personal experience as well as that of my patients, I've just been, to be honest, totally disgusted by the lack of transparency in medical care. It makes me feel like, what is this system that we're working in? What I mean by lack of transparency is that when you go to your doctor's office, you have no idea how much you're going to pay until they're done. You also didn't have the option to say yes or no to particular procedures. And then, worse, 3 months later, you get another bill...and then another...and another. People don't know that, hey, my specialist co-pays $60 but I actually spent $1,000 or I have $100 co-pay but I spent $2,000 on labs. I have patients who tell me they're spending $2,000 every 3-6 months on bloodwork. It's not that expensive! The only reason we're facing this is because nobody knows what it should cost.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I can't say I have a firm plan for where I want to be in five years but I do want to be a voice for this city to use technology and telemedicine. That's part of what I researched during my fellowship and I utilized it a lot. I have spoken to officials here in the city about telemedicine as a way to access healthcare. The majority of people are dealing with chronic, metabolic diseases, especially in lower socioeconomic neighborhoods. Something we could do is have a hub where we provide telemedicine services, even if there's no setup for high-speed internet yet.
About the San Antonio Free Market Medical Association
Organized in 2019, Roger Moczygemba, MD and Shankar Poncelet came together with other thought leaders in the community with the goal to lower the cost of healthcare in San Antonio through price transparency, reference-based pricing, and local connection.
The San Antonio FMMA recognizes the three pillars on which the national FMMA was founded by Jay Kempton and Dr. Keith Smith in 2014:
1. Price is not a product.
2. Value is mutually determined and requires transparent pricing and quality.
3. Cash is king, the equality of price is critical.
The FMMA connects buyers and sellers of healthcare, educating and motivating them to work together based upon a mutually beneficial relationship built on the pillars. To learn more, visit https://SanAntonioFMMA.org or contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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